Data breaches appear to be all the more common in recent years, with major firms across industries such as healthcare, social media, and finance falling victim to hackers. And such intrusions are becoming an increasingly costly problem for companies to fix; the cost of a data breach has risen by 12% over the past 5 years, according to data from IBM Security published in July 2019.
The circumstances behind a data breach will always vary depending on the situation. But there is a common thread that can be found across several recent hacks, including the Capital One breach from July 2019, according to Marc Rogers, a white-hat hacker and head of cybersecurity at Okta, an enterprise identity management firm.
For several companies that have been impacted by data breaches in recent years, the issue boils down to how these firms are managing the servers that are being used to store sensitive information, says Rogers.
“That’s probably the most common vector that I’m seeing across all of these breaches, is that companies don’t seem to know what data assets are out there,” Rogers said when speaking with Business Insider. “And consequently, there [are] a lot of insecure systems hanging on the internet that can be readily accessed.”
Take the Capital One breach as an example, which impacted 100 million people in the United States and six million people in Canada. Suspected hacker Paige A. Thompson is said to have obtained the sensitive information about Capital One customers and credit card applicants by exploiting a firewall misconfiguration in the company’s cloud infrastructure.
Security company Suprema, which operates a biometrics platform called Biostar 2, also fell victim to a hack that exposed the fingerprints of more than one million people as well as unencrypted usernames and passwords, The Guardian reported in August. That data breach can also be traced back to the way the compromised information was stored and managed, as the report said it was found on a publicly accessible database.
Boosting the security of the servers that store such information could dramatically cut down on the number of data breaches, according to Rogers.
“If we just got rid of that, I think you’d reduce the number of breaches we’re hearing about by at least half,” said Rogers.
At the same time, lawmakers are pressing for action to be taken in order to prevent a data breach like the one that impacted Capital One from happening again. United States senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in October 2019 calling for an investigation of Amazon over the Capital One leak, since the affected data was stored using Amazon Web Services. In the letter, Wyden and Warren accuse Amazon of failing to implement the same level of security in its cloud services as other tech firms like Microsoft and Google.
But experts have previously said that the responsibility to secure data should rest with the company itself, not the cloud-service provider.
“Step one in terms of mitigating these issues is [to] get out of this false sense of security that cloud users have, that Amazon will take care of it,” Ameesh Divatia, CEO and cofounder of data protection firm Baffle, previously told Business Insider.
Rogers says companies should start by getting an understanding of what data is out there by conducting a scan of their company’s public IP space and external assets. Doing so could help firms see if there’s any data out there that isn’t protected by a password, or is perhaps guarded by a default password that may not be strong.
“I’m getting used to hearing companies say ‘we had no idea that was out there,'” Rogers said. “Well somehow, these companies need to better track things.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
White roses are given to Gold Star mothers as part of a ceremony for Gold Star Mother’s Day at the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek- Fort Story chapel. Since 1936, the last Sunday in September is reserved for families who have lost children serving in the United States Armed Forces. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shannon M. Smith/ Released)
Gold Star Mother’s Day is a day to recognize and honor the mothers of service members who have died in the line of duty. Each year, there are events and meetings for Gold Star Mothers and their families.
The Gold Star has long been a symbol of a loved one lost in combat. During WWI, flags became a way for families to let others in their communities know about the status of their loved ones in the military. Blue Stars displayed on flags meant that a household had someone in the military who was deployed. Additional stars indicated additional family members.
If a family received news that their loved one had been killed in action, the star’s color was changed from blue to gold.
A Grieving Mother starts an organization
In 1928, Grace Darling took the informal practice of flag display and formalized it into a non-profit organization, American Gold Star Mothers.
After her son, George Vaughn Seibold, volunteered for military service during WWI, Grace looked for ways to help her local community of veterans. She started visiting veterans in the greater Washington area, hoping that her presence might help them. When letters from her son stopped arriving in the mail, Grace feared the worst.
George’s remains were never found. Grace quickly realized that self-contained grief would eat her alive. So, she and 25 other grieving mothers met to create a formal organization that would help them collectively deal with their grief.
American Gold Star Mothers is formed
On June 4, 1928, Grace Darling and twenty-five other mothers formed the American Gold Star Mothers non-profit organization. Six months later, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. Within 90 days, the organization had almost tripled in size. Currently, the organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36-211 of the United States Code.
American Gold Star Mothers Inc. works on behalf of Gold Star families to educate the public on the unique challenges that Gold Star Mothers face. Their aim to inspire “true allegiance to the United States of America.” To advance this mission, the Gold Star Mothers hold an annual convention and have events centered around Gold Star Mother’s Day and Veteran’s Day. They also partner with Wreaths Across America to coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the U.S. and abroad.
Criteria for membership
Membership into American Gold Star Mothers is open to any woman who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident who has lost a son or daughter in active service in the military, regardless of the place or time of military service and regardless of whether the circumstances of death involved hostile conflict or not. Membership is open to mothers of service members missing in action as well.
The current charter was ratified in 1984 and also includes mothers who are from U.S. territories or insular possessions. Membership is not contingent on whether the service member was killed in action or in the theater of action.
Non-adoptive stepmothers are also eligible for membership if they assume responsibility for the service member before the age of fifteen. Husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers are eligible to join as Associate Members. Honorary membership is provided to mothers who were not citizens or legal residents when their service member child was inducted.
National Gold Star Family Registry
National Gold Star Family Registry is a program that honors those who have died while defending our freedom. This non-profit is the first comprehensive database of fallen heroes that’s ever been developed. It allows family members a space to publicly remember their loved ones and serves as a historical log of those who have died in combat. Educational resources and personal accounts are also provided, which might help future generations better understand our nation’s heroes. Information for the registry is compiled from public sources, including the Department of Defense and the National Archives. Launched in 2010, the registry recognizes the need for families to be able to share the stories of their heroes with the world.
The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.
But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.
Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.
“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.
Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.
The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.
Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.
The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.
“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.
Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.
“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”
Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.
“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.
Getting uniforms Amazon-quick
On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)
“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.
The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.
“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.
The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.
Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.
The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.
“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.
Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.
In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.
Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”
Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.
Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.
“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.
Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.
The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.
Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.
“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
For me, Memorial Day has always been about more than just picnics and barbecues. I have five members of my family buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The earliest served in the Spanish American War, and all the way to World War II. It’s important that their service be honored and remembered — especially on Memorial Day.
In early May 2011, I was looking for some way to give back to my country. I worked as a flower grower in Ecuador and I had an idea. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. After the Civil War, people would go to cemeteries and decorate gravesites with flowers.
I met with two other Ecuador-based American flower growers, and together we were able to coordinate a massive donation of fresh flowers. I called up the administration at Arlington National Cemetery and said, ‘We’ve got 10,000 roses for you, for Memorial Day.'” And they happily accepted the offer.
Memorial Day Flowers Foundation at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
And that was how the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation had its start. Scouts and other volunteers place a flower in front of each headstone. Volunteers quietly read every headstone and note the dates and circumstances. This moment of reflection and remembrance is important. It’s a very personal tribute.
What began at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2011 with 10,000 roses, has expanded to dozens of cemeteries around the country. Last year, the foundation distributed 400,000 flowers at 41 cemeteries and other Memorial Day observances around the country.
That expansion would not have been possible without volunteers and broad-based partnerships and support. These days, the foundation sources flowers from 80 to 90 farms, including farms in California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.
Since 2013, we have worked with local groups to organize floral tributes for Memorial Day at National Cemeteries and Veterans Cemeteries across the U.S.
Our growth would not have been possible without the guidance and involvement of the National Cemetery Administration. Cemetery directors find our efforts provide a way for the general public to connect with their mission to honor our late veterans and instill an appreciation for the sacrifices they make.
Memorial Day Flowers Foundation volunteers prepare roses at the Houston National Cemetery.
We also distribute bouquets of flowers to gold star families attending the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day Weekend, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
In 2019, more than 100 cemeteries are participating in the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation’s efforts around the country.
The numbers amaze me every time I look at them. Now we talk about tens of thousands of flowers. We still have a long way to go, before every veteran’s gravesite is recognized on Memorial Day, but we are well on our way to reaching that goal.
I also know the difference just one flower can make. One year, as we gave out flowers on Memorial Day, I handed a rose to an older woman. She thanked me and said, “His father brought me roses the day he was born.” Then she invited me to walk with her to visit her son’s gravesite. And as we stood there together in the hot sun and she told me her son’s story, I knew one flower could mean everything to one person
Placing a flower for Memorial Day to honor a fallen service member or veteran is a quiet tribute; a heartfelt reminder of just what flowers can mean to people — and what it means to honor the sacrifices of U.S. military members and their families. It brings together people from all walks of life to honor those who have served our country and it helps all of us learn more about our history.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
I know a lot of veterans who based their military careers on whichever recruiting office they walked into first. That’s one way to go about signing your life away to Uncle Sam, but it’s not what I would recommend. The military is a major commitment and will probably affect the rest of your life, whether you serve for four years or forty.
The biggest factors that go into your military experience are which branch you join and whether you enlist or commission as an officer. In this article, we’ll be going over some of the differences between officers and enlisted personnel across the five branches of the military.
We’ll cover everything from pay and benefits, mission execution to culture.
How to Join
Qualifications for enlisting in the military:
Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
Meet the age and fitness requirements
Have a high school diploma
Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test
For each branch, enlisted personnel begin their military experience with a form of boot camp. It is a strenuous introduction to military life, from the medical in-processing to the physical training to the hazing discipline. After about eight weeks of boot camp, enlisted personnel will receive their first duty assignments (probably at a job-specific training location) and they’ll be ready to actively serve in the military.
Qualifications for commissioning in the military:
Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
Meet the age and fitness requirements
Have an undergraduate degree
Complete an officer training program
In order to earn a commission into the United States military, officer candidates must complete an officer training program. Two options for cadets without college degrees are to attend a military academy, such as West Point or the Air Force Academy, or to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps while attending the qualified college of their choice.
Academy cadets and ROTC cadets will learn about the military while completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Half-way through their studies, they will attend a summer boot camp, much like the enlisted boot camps except that cadets will already be expected to meet physical fitness and academic requirements. For officer candidates, boot camp is the rite of passage that will elevate cadets to the leadership fundamentals portion of their training.
Once academy or ROTC cadets graduate and receive their degrees, they commission into active duty and receive orders for their first assignment, which, like enlisted personnel, will probably include a job-specific training.
A third route to becoming an officer is to complete an Officer Candidate School (or Officer Training School, depending on the branch). Cadets who already have college degrees will undergo a three-month training program that includes military academics and leadership training as well as boot camp. Once complete, OCS/OTS cadets will commission just like academy and ROTC cadets.
Enlisted personnel make up 82% of the military. They are primarily responsible for carrying out military operations. The remaining 18% are officers, who are responsible for overseeing operations and enlisted personnel.
Officers will have a head-start on managerial experience, commanding personnel at the mid- to senior-level corporate executive level. They hold a commission from the President of the United States, a position that comes with more authority and responsibility.
Enlisted personnel, however, are the subject matter experts. They will have the hands-on application of the mission and as they rise in rank they will also rise in leadership authority and experience. Enlisted personnel are also expected to continue their education while on active duty and many earn degrees and vocational training that can translate to a civilian career after their service.
Mission requirements and experience will vary depending on your military career and assignment location. A career in cyber operations might mean the mission is conducted over the internet, where the officer’s role is to aggregate information collected by enlisted personnel. A career in the infantry might mean that an officer is coordinating weapons and targets as enlisted personnel fight in combat.
That being said, there are certain career fields only available to officers or enlisted. A prime example: Air Force pilots are officers.
Officers will start out at a higher pay grade than enlisted personnel, though enlisted service members are eligible for a variety of bonuses that can be quite substantial. Officers will also receive higher benefits such as monthly Basic Allowance for Housing. You can see from these charts, however, that year-for-year and promotion-to-promotion, officers tend to make about twice as much money as enlisted personnel from monthly basic pay alone.
Let’s say you want to serve in the military to help pay for college.
Veterans (enlisted and officer) who meet qualifications are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a program that will help pay for college classes or an on-the-job training program after military service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes tuition and BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) assistance so it’s a major benefit when veterans transition back to civilian life.
But it’s not precisely equal for everyone.
According to the VA, “If you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, you may be eligible for this VA-administered program.”
In other words, after a typical four-year service commitment, the average enlisted veteran will qualify for a paid college degree (and the Yellow Ribbon Program can supplement tuition that the GI Bill might not cover, at a private school for example).
The average officer, however, will not qualify for the GI Bill after a four-year service commitment. Here’s why:
Tuition and fees for the military academies is free for officer candidates. ROTC cadets also compete for varying degrees of scholarships to cover their college expenses in addition to receiving stipends during training.
In other words, most officers receive a college degree and then they serve in the military. If they want to earn Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, they will have to serve additional time beyond their initial service commitment. Over time, officers accrue a percentage of the GI Bill.
So, if you’re still in high school and you’re trying to decide what you want to do in the military and what career you might want after the military, it could make sense to enlist first and gain professional experience then go to college courtesy of the GI Bill in the field you want to pursue.
As an alternative, you can complete your officer training and earn your first degree, serve in the military and gain professional experience similar to that of mid-level professionals, then either separate after your service commitment and pursue a civilian career or continue to serve longer and accrue GI Bill benefits for your next degree.
There are no wrong options here – it all depends on whether you know what career you want, whether it aligns with your potential military career and what kind of degree or vocational training would support you.
Officers tend to be older when they join the military, having already obtained their undergraduate degree. They are also trained with an emphasis on leadership and responsibility. Furthermore, active duty officers generally have the option of living off-base as opposed to barracks. For many of these reasons, officers get into less trouble than enlisted personnel while on active duty. As for women in the force:
Both officers and enlisted make critical contributions to the United States military. Their experiences will vary from location to location and job to job. They will also vary based on their branch. Be sure to read about the differences between each branch of the military to decide which one is best suited for you.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
The US Navy is trying to find out who secretly filmed dozens of service members in a bathroom and shared the videos on the porn website Porn Hub, US military officials told NBC news.
An agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found the videos on Porn Hub earlier this month. Some of the videos showed sailors and marines in uniform with visible name patches, NBC reported. The individuals didn’t know they were being recorded and officials were not aware of any sexual acts in the videos.
The clips, which have since been removed, also included civilians.
The officials believe the videos were taken through a peephole in a bathroom, according to NBC.Some of the individuals in the videos were assigned to the USS Emory S. Land, a vessel that supplies submarines and is assigned to a port in Guam, the officials told NBC.
A message left by Insider for a Navy spokesperson was not immediately returned.
In the statement, White said that PornHub employs a team to scan for and remove content that violates their terms of service.
The company also uses “Vobile, a state of the art third party fingerpringing software,” to make sure new uploads don’t match videos that have already been removed from the site, White said.
This isn’t the first time that US service members have been targeted by voyeurs looking to share nude photos of them online.
In a 2017 scandal, the US Marine Corp. opened an investigation after hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch had been posted to an image-sharing message board.
The discovery of the photos and investigation resulted in a change in US Marine and Navy laws banning revenge porn.
Violators who are found to have shared an “intimate image” of a colleague without their consent can face consequences ranging from administrative punishments to criminal actions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We’re all familiar with the story of Joe D. Grinder, right? Joe the Grinder was a fictional ladies’ man who seduced the wives of hard-working men, prisoners, and soldiers while the husbands were away. The character dates back to the 1930s, and is a staple of the military where he’s known as “Jody.” Turns out, there’s an injury named for jerks exactly like that.
It’s known as either the “Lover’s Fracture” or the “Don Juan Fracture.” And it’s so named because if you jump out of a second- or third-story window because the spouse of your lover just got home, you’re probably going to suffer the fracture yourself.
It’s a break of the heel bone, specifically the calcaneus. It’s diagnosed with X-rays, but symptoms include pain, bruising, and trouble walking. But best-case scenario when we’re talking about a recently active Jody, the fracture commonly happens at the same time as fractures in the hips and backs.
So, yeah, Jody’s gonna have a lot of trouble walking when his heel, hips, and back are all fractured at the same time.
Usually, we don’t root for other people to be severely injured. But we’re willing to make exceptions when it comes to Jody. Seriously, military marriages have enough stress without some jerk flying circles over them like vultures, waiting for deployments or other stress.
No one needs Jody around. And if he wanted healthy heels, he should have learned to do a parachute landing fall or dated single women. When a stranger sleeps with paratroopers’ wives, he should learn to jump like one. And that goes for female Jodies as much as the male ones. And while we’re not rooting for anyone to inflict physical violence on someone else outside of combat, a 10- or 20-foot fall is likely safer than being captured by an irate Marine. Or soldier, sailor, airman, or Coastie.
There has never been a United States Secretary of Defense that has been so universally beloved. Retired Gen. Jim Mattis was confirmed last year by a landslide vote of 98 in favor and 1 opposed, despite being on a waiver to circumvent the seven-years-since-retirement requirement to be appointed Secretary of Defense.
Long before he rose to the highest position in the Armed Forces, second only to the President, he earned several monikers, each from a different aspect of his ability to lead.
4. “Mad Dog” Mattis
For the record: He is not a fan of the name, “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, you probably don’t want to go saying it to a man that has admitted that the max effective range on his knife hand is hundreds of miles. It dates back to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article saying that U.S. troops in Fallujah called him “Mad Dog” behind his back and that it was “high praise” in Marine culture.
The “Mad Dog” label stuck following a series of intimidating quotes, such as, “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” and “a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy’s skin like a poncho.” At Gen. Mattis’s confirmation hearing, former Maine Senator and the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, joked that it’s a misnomer and the nickname “Braveheart” would have been much more accurate.
3. “Warrior Monk”
The most accurate of his nicknames has to be “The Warrior Monk.” Another beautiful Mattisism is, “the most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Gen. Mattis is well known for his intelligence, extensive book collection, and giving his troops required reading lists that range from cultural studies to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For his complete reading list, broken down by rank and region of deployment, click here.
His preferred nickname is the call sign he used as a Colonel, “Chaos.” He joked at a conference that he’d like to tell people that it was for some dignified reason, but it’s not.
When he was a regimental commander at Twentynine Palms, he was leaving the S-3 office and noticed the words “CHAOS” written on the whiteboard. He asked someone what it meant and got, “Oh, you don’t need to know about that…” which, of course, only piqued his interest more. Finally, they broke it to him that it meant, “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” It was a joke at his expense that he took in stride, so he wore it as a badge of honor.
1. “Patron Saint of Chaos”
Secretary of Defense Mattis’ legendary status among the troops has earned him the title, “Saint Mattis of Quantico. Patron Saint of Chaos.”
Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen.
What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.
If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.
If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.
Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.
Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.
You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)
Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.
Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.
Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.
If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.
To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.
Marine scout snipers are some lethal dudes. Capable of sending lead downrange with great accuracy, they’re also great for getting eyes on the battlefield for persistent reconnaissance. Here’s what makes them so deadly:
1. Yes, the Marines are masters of stealth, trained to stalk and hunt enemy troops or, more commonly, set up firing points to strike targets of opportunity and protect friendly forces.
2. To achieve this, they become masters of reading the terrain, ballistics, and tactics. These skills have to be combined to ensure that they can predict a target’s actions and engage it accurately.
3. Of course, they don’t have to rely on only their own weapons systems. The snipers can report enemy activity and request other fires such as artillery or aircraft to engage targets, keeping the sniper’s position secret.
4. Spotters usually handle the duties of conducting calls for artillery or close air support, and they also help the sniper find and engage targets by scanning the battlefield and relaying environmental information like wind speed and range.
5. Like any good Marine, the scout snipers can arrive on the battlefield in a number of ways, from riding in on the waves in AAVs to fast roping out of Ospreys.
6. Rucking in can give them a much stealthier insertion. The spotter will assist carrying the ammo for the sniper.
7. Scout snipers can engage the enemy with a variety of long-range rifles.
8. The M40 is one of their most commonly-deployed weapons.
9. And of course, the Barrett M82 .50-cal. sniper rifle is so powerful you could kill a building.
10. To properly employ all this lethality, scout snipers stay super fit.
11. Look at these guys. Carrying rucksacks. Drinking from Camel Baks.
12. Scout snipers are always there for you. Or maybe right behind you. Or possibly 1,000 meters front of you. They’re so stealthy, you can’t actually be sure. But they can kill you from practically anywhere.
It has to be a little difficult to be a living legend in the Royal Navy while at the same time being subordinate to someone who is known as a “capable administrator,” but still outranks you. This is the situation British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson found himself in at the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen.
At Copenhagen, the British fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. During the Battle, the Admiral ordered the brilliant seaman Nelson to do something that was counter to Nelson’s instincts, so Nelson instead used his physical advantage to follow those instincts.
The British Fleet was in Copenhagen to enforce its blockade of Revolutionary France. Denmark was not allied with France, but instead bound to Tsarist Russia and other Nordic countries to assert their neutrality, to continue trading with whomever they pleased despite the British embargo. They were willing to fight to maintain the freedom of the seas, and their trade obligations.
Though outgunned by the Danish fortifications on shore, the British had superior firepower aboard its ships. Parker would stay outside of the harbor while Nelson led 12 Ships of the Line to engage the Danish ships inside the harbor. Nelson’s plan was to engage the weaker ships piecemeal and place troops ashore to take the fortifications.
Nelson, by this time, was already a legend in the minds of the British people and Royal Navy seamen. His victory against the French at the Battle of the Nile propelled him to near-celebrity status. All the more amazing a feat, since Nelson only had one eye – he lost sight in his right eye at the 1794 Battle of Calvi in Corsica.
Parker was a high ranking naval officer who had commanded ships since 1762, received a knighthood for his service, and had served in the American Revolutionary War and in engagements in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At the Battle of Copenhagen, Parker was the overall commander of the Baltic Sea Fleet.
At Copenhagen, Parker saw little action because he was left in command of ships who were too heavy to traverse the channels into the harbor, which is why he passed off command of a detachment to Nelson.
The fight didn’t start well for the British ships. Three ships of the line immediately ran aground in the shallows of the harbor. Then, the shore based gun batteries unleashed a heavier barrage than British planners had anticipated. Watching from the rest of the British fleet, Parker signalled Nelson to withdraw the assault and leave the harbor.
When informed of the command signal, Nelson told his signal lieutenant that his job was to watch the Danish fleet for their surrender signal, not to watch the British ships. Then he told his flag captain, “You know, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.”
Nelson then put his telescope up to his right eye and told his men, he didn’t see Parker’s signal to withdraw. After three hours of implementing his plan, both the British and the Danes were bloodied and beaten, but it was the Danish who signaled an end to the fighting first.
Though he disobeyed Parker’s orders, Parker didn’t seek any redress for Nelson’s actions. The next day, Nelson was allowed to lead the negotiations for Denmark’s capitulation to the British and later given a Baron’s title. Parker was recalled to London and Nelson was made commander of the Baltic Fleet.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.
Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.
As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.
Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.
Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.
Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.
She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.
“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.
She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.
Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.
“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.
“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.
Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.
Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.
She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”
Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.
Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.
Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.
She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.
Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.
“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”
Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.
Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.
“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”
From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.
Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.
“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”